When it comes to video games, people often fall into two camps: either they play them obsessively, or they can count on one hand the number of times they've picked up a controller. But no matter which camp you fall into, you may want to consider utilizing video games (or gamification) the next time you're stuck in a creative rut. 

In a study published in 2011, Dr. Linda Jackson, a professor of psychology at Michigan State University studied the effects of video games on creativity. Researchers surveyed approximately 500 12-year-old kids about how often they interacted with various types of technology, including video games, cell phones, and computers. Then, the subjects were given the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking (TTCT), a widely- used test to effectively measure a person's creative ability. Creativity is certainly challenging to evaluate, so the TTCT focuses on measuring creativity based on the quality of a story or picture.

The study showed that the kids who said that they played video games scored better on the TTCT. However, the use of cell phones, internet, computers, and other types of electronics showed no strong connection to a higher TTCT score. While the researchers couldn't determine the exact connection between video games and creativity, this could be because the stories children see relayed in video games help them think more outside-the-box.

Businesses are also starting to take note of this research as well. In an Inc. article from October of last year titled "How Video Games Can Train Your Brain to Be More Creative and Productive," Marla Tabaka shares the story of Jane McGonigal who, after a terrible brain injury, went on to gamify her recovery process. From there, she developed both games and curriculum to help companies leverage games to make their employees happier and more productive.

Below are three ways to leverage these findings to boost yours (and your team's) creativity:

Incorporate some aspect of gamification into your team's everyday routine

Companies like mLevel are incorporating elements of video games into routine company tasks, such as creating a memory game to learn about the people you work. You can even broaden this out to use games to help employees memorize the ins and outs of quality or safety standards or company policies. mLevel's website has examples and case studies of companies using gamification in interesting ways, and further demonstrates how video gaming can help aid in solving creative challenges. (Disclaimer: I was formerly employed at Slalom Consulting, which is an investor in mLevel). The important takeaway here: you don't always have to bring an Xbox to the office in order to experience the benefits of video games. 

Take a simple video game break during peak stress times

As stress is the biggest hindrance to creativity, finding ways to deal with stress is the best thing you can do to help amp up your creative juices. Take a break from stressful tasks to play a couple rounds of a video game to alleviate stress, get your mind out of the weeds or help you transition to the next task at hand.

Play a round of video games during a hackathon or brainstorming session 

Oftentimes, teams hit a brick wall during a brainstorming session because they can't all get on the same page, and come to a solution. If that's the case, you may want to use video games as a way to not only give your team members a break, but to also give them a chance to work on their communication skills without the pressure of having to come up with brilliant ideas. Additionally, finding a game that you can enjoy with your co-workers can offer a common experience to facilitate bonding, which helps boost collaboration.

Published on: Aug 12, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.